Ever since the creation of the D23 fan club, fans far and wide have wished to master and take in all of the magic that is the D23 Expo. Though a large scale convention to the naked eye, D23 Expo is a heaven on earth for Mouseketeers young and old. From giant panels on Live Action film and Animation, to celebrity surprise appearances, along with cosplaying and fandom memories made every minute, this is the place to be if you love the House of Mouse. Since many vacationers who love Disneyland are always curious about taking some time to see the Expo, I felt it was time for a guide to be written that'll give you future-Expo attendees all the tips you need to enjoy (and survive) this incredible convention. So sit back, grab your Mouse Ears and let's take a walk down the show floor of D23 Expo!
What Tickets Do I Get/How Much Do They Cost?
When I mention to people that I have been going to D23 Expo year after year, they often ask me, "But how much does it cost?" Well, that is a tricky question to answer, since this is time based. D23 is not the cheapest convention to attend, but it definitely will be worth the money if you know when to buy your tickets and how to use your convention time effectively (we'll get to that shortly!) Just imagine that D23 is kind of like the Disneyland of conventions, and you can guess how much the price of your ticket will be.
It is important to remember that Expo tickets usually go on sale a year before the event, and the earlier you get them, the cheaper they will be. It also helps if you are a D23 club member, since regardless of membership level, you can get a discount for you and up to four friends. Unfortunately, the closer you get to the Expo, the more pricey the tickets will become, and the availability of what you can choose from becomes more limited.
If you are going to be in the area and are willing to fork over the bigger ticket prices, a weekend membership will be worth your money. This way you can get all that the Expo has to offer for the entire duration of the event, while also not having to worry that your favorite panel or celebrity won't be there on a specific day.
But for those that are limiting themselves to experiencing D23 Expo to just one day, I'd suggest going either Friday or Saturday. These are the days that are the most action packed, and will have the better programming, with Saturday (as it the case with most cons) being the better choice of the two. Sunday is good for those that haven't experienced a convention before, as it is usually a shortened day and there are typically less people roaming the convention center, so you won't feel the impact of the crowds.
What Happens at the D23 Expo?
Outside of the cost, this is the question I get asked the most about, and to try and answer it is simply impossible. But, I'll give it shot:
D23 Expo is essentially the greatest Disney themed club house you'll have ever been to. Have you dreamed about meeting Disney fans that get your love for the Mouse House just as much as you? Have you been looking for that obscure Dumbo statue that came out in the 60's that your Grandma threw out? Is interacting with John Lasseter on your bucket list? Then D23 Expo will allow all those fantasies to come true, and more. You can even cosplay as an Animatronic from World of Motion, and collect a Pixar ball while you're at it! There's so many things to see and do at the Expo, you will almost never have time for all of it, which definitely makes you wanna come back to try it the following convention (which occurs every other year.)
Some specific highlights are the big announcement panels, where the Disney company talks about their new projects in Live Action films, Animated films, along with Parks & Resorts. Usually a big guests come to all these events, like Johnny Depp (in and out of Jack Sparrow's costume) who attended a few panels in 2015, or Chris Evans came to the Marvel portion of the movies panel - which is why the lines are both so early and super intense to get into these specific events. Make sure to look into D23's line-up policy, so that you can get the most out of seeing these incredible presentations. Also, these panels usually are phone prohibited, and you'll have to lock your phone in a special bag.
You'll also want to save your money for the show floor, since there are not only three exclusive stores there (Disney Store, Disney's Dream Store, and Mickey's of Glendale) but there will be cool venders with vintage and international merchandise as well. If you are interested in the three shopping locations mentioned above, you also will want to line up very early, since they all include limited edition merchandise that sells out in hours if not minutes. The Disney Store is the most crowed/popular, with the other two having chaos on the first day but dying down towards the end of the Expo weekend.
Finally, make sure to check out the schedule for the smaller (but just as cool) presentations and meet and greets happening throughout the weekend. Some of these panels will also have what are called StagePasses, which work just like a FastPass at any of the Disney parks. Again, you need to line up extremely early to get these, so keep checking D23 Expo's website for more info.
What Should I Bring?
This is a very vague question, as it really pertains to whether you plan to cosplay or not at the expo. But if you're coming as just a regular guest, I'd suggest thinking of the event like you would a theme park visit to Disneyland or Walt Disney World Resort. Make sure you have water, comfy shoes, etc. You know the works! But if you are planning to cosplay, make sure you find the comfiest shoes for your character, and also look into D23's costume policies. There might be things such as costume weapons, props, etc. that aren't allowed or need some sort of orange tag to be accepted by the staff, so do your research!
Also make sure to have a charger for your phone or camera at the ready, since there will be tons of moments you want to capture, and sadly no PhotoPass photographers in sight. So up those photography skills, and you'll be good to go!
How Early Can I Line Up?
Though Disney has not officially said anything on the specifics, lining up is likely to be quite an adventure this time around at the expo. In 2015, they started a new system that allowed for people to line up over night in a huge loading area until around 5am. After that point you had to go into the normal lines outside of the Anaheim Convention Center, which usually meant you weren't going to get into any of the big panels. You could also do this early line up for shopping, but no word yet if that'll be the case for 2017's event.
Personally, I lined up on Saturday morning around 3am and got into the Live Action movie panel without a care in the world. Though that might sound silly, it actually was a lot of fun! People had blankets, pillows, and snacks, and you had the opportunity to make some amazing friends while waiting (some to whom I still talk to today!) So if you choose to line up this early, make the most of it and have a blast. But be prepared, there is always the chance people are truly intense with these things, and even getting in at 3am will be too late to get into a panel or snag a special Tsum Tsum. Basically, plan/line up at your own risk.
But Can I Do Everything?
No, is the simple answer. This is a convention that even though you'll plan to the T everything you want to do, you're likely to do about half of those things. This is due to the size of the event, the time it takes to line up, and that grand thing called life - as frustrating as it is. Expo's like D23 just have lots of unexpected turns and bathroom breaks, which will always result in your schedule being not as perfect as you would hope. But once you allow yourself to realize how impossible it is to do everything on your list, you can finally pick and choose what is the most important to you to not miss.
So What Is The Most Important Thing To Remember?
Aside from making sure you pack up everything and save all the money.... have fun! This is meant to be a celebration of everything you love about Disney and all that it includes. If you come in with a nervous energy, it'll carry with you the entire convention. So just take a deep breath, and get the most out of the event that you can without making yourself sick or a wreck. Just embrace the fandom you love, and enjoy the weekend to the best of your ability.
So, are you attending D23 Expo for the first time? Or are you a D23 expert? Comment below with your favorite moments and events you've experienced or wish you did, and what you're looking the most forward to during this year's Expo.
Dalin Rowell is a Vacation Specialist with Coasters & Castles Travel and a HUGE Disney fan! She would love to help you plan your next Disney vacation.